Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Travel Tip Tuesdays: Seven Steps to Prepare for a Big Trip

Many people would love to take some sort of once-in-a-lifetime trip, and many people who are capable of taking one never even try because they assume it’s out of the question. I’m not one of those people who naïvely states, “Anyone can travel.” It’s simply not true. My mom has a health condition that makes travel for her almost impossible. Some people are struggling to feed their children with food stamps. Some people are the sole caretaker for a sick relative, or raising six kids under the age of six, or in any number of situations in which travel is simply unfeasible.

But, with all that said, I do believe that the majority of middle-class people in America are capable of taking an extended trip. Most people don’t want to, or have no reason to. But the people who want to travel but assume that it’s impossible need to understand that travel doesn’t have to be as expensive or difficult or extravagant as they think. Here are seven steps (and a host of links) to show what I think is most important in preparing for a trip.

1. Pay off debt. Debt is crippling. Debt is paralyzing. Debt makes you a slave to something until you’ve paid it off. If you have any debt of any sort, please pay it off as soon as possible. If you prioritize this, you will give yourself a lot more freedom.

Antelope Island, Utah, spring 2011
2. Save money. If you can possibly help it, don’t go into debt for a trip. Here are some tips for saving money for a trip. And some tips for saving money on the road here and here and here.

3. Find a way to make money on the road. In a long-term trip, making money along the way can be invaluable. For instance, my brother is spending this summer working as kitchen help at Yellowstone National Park. Many national parks will hire employees for the summer. Several world travelers I’ve met have funded their trips by getting temporary work along the way, anything from bar-tending and dishwashing to goat shearing and flyer distributing.

4. Talk to someone who’s already taken a trip similar to your dream trip. Plenty of people have traveled the world, hiked the Appalachian Trail, hitchhiked across America, hopped across Africa on a pogo stick (okay, maybe not the last one)… and the Internet makes it easier than ever to track down these people. Listen to their advice and talk to them in person if you can.

Hiking in Oregon, early 2012
5. Bring closure to as many obligations as possible. When I first decided I wanted to start traveling, I was teaching five different classes. I immediately informed my administrators that I would finish up the semester, and then be done. It took me about eight months before I was able to tie up all the loose ends in my life and hit the road.

Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands,
summer 2012
6. Enlist the support of family and friends. I know there are some people who can take all these amazing trips on their own, but most of us have a strong network of family and friends. Tell stories and find people who are willing to support your dream. For instance, in order to help us out for our PCT adventure, my parents have let Zachary and me move in with them until we leave for California on the 19th, so we are saving a month’s rent. Numerous friends are storing our furniture and other stuff. We couldn’t do it without all of them.

7. Figure out if this is something you really want to do. Anything big you do in your life will necessarily exclude other big things you could be doing. If an amazing trip is your priority, only a few things can stand in the way. It almost always comes down to this one idea: what are you willing to give up for your dream?



  1. I love your blog. We're preparing for the PCT in 2015, and I'm having a great time reading all of your advice. Keep up the good work! Anxiously awaiting your next awesome post.
    -- Jodie

    1. Thanks, Jodie! Hopefully our experience can help give you another perspective on what the PCT is like so you can learn from our mistakes. ;) Even if we end up failing, I'm happy that we're giving this trip our best shot!

  2. Good tips, thanks. I want to add something that was a life saver on my last trip to Rome. I lost my passport during the day and had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website. I was automatically sent a text message (and an email) with a pickup location before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me, I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. Tags are available through mystufflostandfound.com That tag saved my trip from total disaster and I put them on my phone, laptop and almost everything that travels with me now.